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Transgender rights up for debate on Hill

Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition has been fighting for bill since 2007.

Last week’s debut of the Chaz Bono documentary brought the battles of transgender people to the spotlight, but in Massachusetts, a much quieter battle is being waged at the State House — one that many are hoping will be deemed a success in a few short weeks.

The battle for transgender equality already received one victory when the Boston City Council in March unanimously reiterated its support of an ordinance passed in 2002 that legally protects Boston’s transgender population against discrimination and violence. The bigger fight, however, is to gain that protection statewide.

“That’s the push now,” confirms Gunner Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. “Honestly, the resolution was done within 24 hours of my asking them. Every one of those city councilors didn’t think twice about it. They get it. The mayor of Boston, he gets it. I only wish our Legislature was as open to the experiences of transgender people.”

Those experiences involve job discrimination, being refused service at restaurants, and even violence and murder. The Transgender Equal Rights Bill would protect basic civil rights for transgender people in Massachusetts. The MTPC has worked to gain protection since 2007 and a joint hearing of the bill is scheduled for June 8.

“The committee deliberates on whether they are in favor or not, or whether it’s sent to study. For the last two sessions, we’ve been sent to study,” says Scott grimly, because that’s akin to being put on the back burner.

Besides City Council support, new federal transgender protection — including measures by the departments of Labor and Housing and Urban Development — add more support.

“It’s sad,” Scott said. “At one point [Mass.] stood up for civil rights, but [it’s not] doing that right now.”

 
 
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